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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Eben Moglen predicts broad embrace of GPL

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Eben Moglen predicts broad embrace of GPL 3
Date: Sat, 26 May 2007 23:20:13 +0200

rjack wrote:
> The Review article

Here's more:

OSBC: Initial Thoughts Eben Moglen and Patents
25th May 2007

During his OSBC keynote, Eben Moglen said that “Science must be free.
Knowledge must be free. Let freedom ring.” This parallels the argument
he’s made in the past that patent software is akin to patenting math.

This is compelling rhetoric, and demonstrates Moglen’s abilities as a
lawyer. But rhetoric is a double-edged sword, in that it can be put in
the service of logic and truth — JFK or Martin Luther King come to mind
— or in opposition to logic and truth. I believe Moglen’s rhetoric falls
in the latter category.

There are two main flaws in Moglen’s arguments. First, he confuses
knowledge with invention. My undergrad degree is in Physics, so I know
first-hand the huge difference between Physics and Engineering. Our
purposes were different, our training was different, our culture was
different than the Engineering students down the hill at UCLA. The goal
of the physicist is to further knowledge without any thought to its
immediate usefulness. It’s rare that any new discovery in Physics has
any commercial application within the twenty-year period of patent
protection. Engineering’s goal, on the other hand, is to make things
that solve an immediate problem, often a commercial one. They couldn’t
be more different.

The same difference is found between theoretical and applied
mathematics. When Calculus was invented by Isaac Newton, it had no
commercial application. On the other hand, figuring out how to perform
real-time Fourier transforms to compute 3D distance readings from sound
echoes hardly advanced the state of mathematical knowledge, but it did
make sonar possible.

Invention, and knowledge, two entirely different things that Moglen
lumps together. Knowledge is free, always has been, and that didn’t
change with software patents. Invention, a commercial activity, has
historically been protected for a short period of time. I don’t know if
Moglen deliberately confuses these two categories, or just doesn’t
understand the difference, but either way, it’s a shame.

As a result of his confusion of knowledge and invention, Moglen implies
that true invention must be instantiated in a physical invention, since
any innovation instantiated digitally, according to Moglen, is not
invention but knowledge. He is selling software short. Is invention any
less deserving of protection because it results in software rather than
a physical contraption? Software engineers should take offense at that
implication. They are no less inventors, or innovators, than someone
building a new hybrid engine or a nano drug delivery device. His
artificial conflation of invention and knowledge leads to a necessary
short-changing of digital invention.

[... the part I don't quite agree snipped ...]


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